Sunday, December 21, 2014

IN THE FLESH: ZOMBIE MANIA (Contributed by Dexter Lynch)

Genre: Horror (Zombies)

Note to readers: Full credit goes to writer Dexter Lynch for this story. A million thanks to Dexter Lynch for his contribution to this ongoing saga. Writers interested in submitting a contribution can contact me on this page, through Twitter, Google Plus, via email at, or any other form of social media that you can reach me on.

By Dexter Lynch
            September 13th, 2013, otherwise known as Z-Day. Or Day One. Whichever you prefer.
            You can call it what you please and we’ll still what day you’re referring to. It was the day the world fell. It was the spark of the apocalypse that all those doomsday preppers had been expecting.
            The lethal virus that triggered this plague was neither a curse nor a mystery. It was man-made, synthetic.
            Man had granted life to the dead. And the dead returned the favor by granting death to those that gave life.
            By Day Twenty Five, all contact was lost. All communication severed. Can you just imagine? No phones, no television, no radio, no internet. No more trips to the mall. No more Sunday brunches. No more triple foam mocha lattes.
            People were finally forced to start living.
            It was either that, or lie down, surrender, and die. Those that didn’t like the latter option…well, some of them are gone. Others, like myself, are still out there.
            Some of us, you can trust. The others, you can never turn your backs on...


Dear Journal,
            I’ve lost tracks of the days. The days, weeks, months, even the seasons all seem to blend together. It’s been so long since the initial outbreak. The group has given up hope that the government will send in reinforcements. You can only lie to yourself for so long.
            Too much time has passed to believe the lies. Too much time has passed to repair the damage done to this world. All we can do is try and continue to survive.
            Dylan Banks twisted his knee up badly when he was running from those frothing psychopaths. Sometimes Dylan seems to forget his age. He forgets he’s not in college anymore. He’s still a useful ally. He’s proved his worth time and time again.
            I keep asking Katie if she’s alright. She just fakes a smile and says, “Don’t worry, daddy. I’m fine.” I hate that. Just be honest to me. I’m an easy person to talk to. I might be short-tempered, but I’m still her father, dammit. See, I’m getting mad again. That’s my horrible temper.
            My father had a short fuse. The littlest thing would set him off. Some nights, I honestly think he wanted mom to overcook the roast so he could lay into her about it. I’ll never forget the day I lost that little league game and he tossed my baseball threw the living room window. I’m starting to think his temper was hereditary.
            I try to keep up hidden for Kristen’s sake, for Katie’s sake. But how much longer can I hide the monster inside me? How much longer before my family finds out who I really am?

            Roswell, New Mexico.
            Day Four Hundred and Ten.
            The city had fallen. The buildings, nothing more than piles of rubble and ash that had once smoldered with the fires that spread and consumed everything in its path.
            A blizzard of soot and black ash blew past the saloon as a gust of wind moved in from the south.
            They had spent months trying to avoid the towns and the main roads. The vast desert landscape seemed to be their only safe haven. Their only respite from the army of the dead.
            Russ had a deep admiration for the cacti, the ocotillo plants, the dry vegetation, the general scenery of the desert. He even grew accustomed to the sight of tumbleweeds. Those rolling orbs of dried shrubbery were his Sports Center.
But the desert had been harsh and unforgiving and they had lost three of their troop from heat strokes and septic shock. Russ rallied the others and forced them to push on. It was for their own good. At least that’s what Russ told himself to ease his guilty conscience.
The desert did not provide them with the adequate shelter and protection they needed. And there no stores or markets to raid for provisions. So whenever they grew weary or ran low on supplies, they’d venture into town to seek shelter.
            So they had moved on to Roswell and found sanctuary at an abandoned saloon.
            “It’s a miracle we found this place,” Elaine Hershey had said.
            “Yeah, look at all this free booze the owner left behind,” Zach Murphy said from behind the counter.
            “That’s not what I meant,” Hershey said, laughing.
            “How’s the leg?” Russ asked Dylan Banks. His wife, Barbara, was massaging at his swollen knee, kneading at the doughy flesh like a cat.
            “It’ll be alright,” Barbara spoke for her husband.
            “With all due respect, ma’am, I was asking your husband.”
            “I’ll be fine,” Dylan assured him.
            “That’s all I needed to hear,” Russ said, and wandered off to have a word with his wife.
            “You guys want a drink?” Murphy asked, pouring himself an expired beer into a mug.
            “Whiskey, if you have it,” Kirk Levy requested.
            “My kind of dude,” Murphy said. “Anyone else? Elaine?”
            “No thanks,” Hershey said, shaking her head. “I don’t drink anymore. Not after what happened that evening.”
            “What happened?” Murphy inquired.
            “Yeah,” Casey Fisher joined in. With the exception of Katie Kordell, Fisher was the youngest member of the troop. “What’s your story? How’d you end up with this group?”
            “My story started on Long Island,” Elaine started. “It’s a forgotten part of New York. But it has its charms. I was quite the drinker, quite the partier. I got shitfaced one night at some club and tried to drive myself home.
            A hit a man and his body got lodged in my windshield. I managed to get the car all the way back to my house and hide it in my garage. But it was too late for the man. He had died. But he didn’t stay dead…
            I survived that encounter on the night of September 12th. Then all hell broke loose the next morning. I never even had a chance to turn myself in. That’s what I had planned on doing. There was no other way I could’ve lived with myself. I decided I was going to own up to my mistake. Then all this happened.
            So I fled New York and ended up with a group of twelve. Our goal was Texas. We heard of a shelter there. But we kept getting sidetracked and pushed off course. Then we got split up. That’s when I met Russ and his family. I’ve been with them ever since.”
            “You really drove around with some guy lodged in your windshield?” Levy said in disbelief.
            “Please,” Hershey said. “I feel bad enough as it is. No need to rub salt into the wounds.”
            “That wasn’t my intention,” Levy said. “It was just a part of the conversation that stuck out to me…no pun intended.”
            “What’s your story?” Hershey asked Fisher, eager to change the subject.
            “I can’t mock you like Kirk here,” Fisher said. “I have demons of my own. Demons I’d like to keep private.”
            “Oh come on,” Hershey said. “I shared my story.”
            “Yeah,” Barbara interjected. “How bad can it be?”
            “Go ahead, Casey,” Dylan told him. “You’re among friends here.”
            “My mom was the first to go. Zombies took a chunk out of her arm. She developed sores and rashes around the bite, ran a high fever, became delirious. Then she died, and she came back. My dad kept her chained up in the basement.
            He wasn’t a very kind man. Not at all. And Bo and I were as good as dead if we followed his lead. I understood that. Even Bo did. So we–”
            “Who’s Bo?” Hershey asked.
            “Bo was my younger sister,” Fisher explained. “And we knew we could survive on our own. That we couldn’t live with our father’s abuse and torment. So I…I gave him one hard shove down the basement stairs and let my mother do the dirty work.”
            “You killed your own father?” Levy asked. The look of disgust on his face was more than enough to convey his feelings on the situation.
            “I had to,” Fisher insisted. “He was mad. He would’ve killed us both. Look what he did to me.” Fisher brushed his hair back and showed them the scar on the side of his face from when his father struck him with a beer bottle.
            “Dear God,” Barbara said, cupping her hand over her mouth to prevent herself from blurting out more comments.
            “Now you get it. The man was a parasite. He got his kicks by slapping us around, burning our arms over the stove, whipping us with his belt. It was a sick game to that man. He had to go. And I was the only one capable of doing it. So I did.”
            “What happened to Bo?” Hershey asked.
            “She got too close to my mother,” Fisher said. “I couldn’t stop her from getting sick. I couldn’t stop the infection from spreading. So I had to put here down. When I lost power and couldn’t even reach anyone over the internet, that’s when I moved on. I traveled with a few different groups of people before I ended up with Russ and his family.”
            “I’m so sorry for your losses,” Hershey said.
            “I prefer not to think about it,” Fisher said.
            “I’ll bet,” Levy said.
            “So, Judge Judy,” Fisher said to Levy. “What’s your story?”
            “Well, I never ran anybody down with my car,” Levy said. “And I certainly didn’t kill my family. But my story started like everyone’s story did: On September 13th, 2013. I was at the office, my wife was making meatloaf for dinner, I had a meeting scheduled at three to discuss issues with the human relations department.
            Then the shit hit the fan. There was one explosion after the other. Between the cars crashing, the planes falling from the sky, the army with their tanks and grenades, I couldn’t tell where half of them were coming from. The ground was shaking every thirty seconds. I could feel it in my office. I could even feel it when my coworkers and I gathered on the roof to get a better look at the carnage.
            Truth be told, we were safer up there than on the ground with everyone else. The first few that tried to leave the office got shredded like coleslaw. I never made it to the meeting. I never had meatloaf that night. And I never saw my wife again.”
            “Ok, I think we’ve all had a turn,” Fisher said. “And we know Barbara and Dylan’s story. And we know the deal with Russ and his family. What’s your story, Zach?”
            “My friends used to call me the Irish Stallion,” Murphy said, chugging the mug of stale beer. “I was a bartender. And I was quite the ladies’ man. I lived to do three things: Drink, party, and fuck.”
            “Sounds like so many of the mistakes I dated in the past,” Hershey said.
            “Anyway, that’s my story,” Zach said. “Nothing complicated or extreme. When things went bad, I left Nevada and traveled to Washington. I figured it’d be safe. I was wrong. I started making my way back down through the states. That’s when Russ found me and took me in.”
            “Hey,” Hershey said to Levy. “You never actually explained how you ended up with the group. You just mentioned what happened at your office that day.”
            “It’s pretty simple,” Levy shrugged. “I left Boston after I lost my wife. There was nothing worth sticking around for, nothing left. Like Zach, I thought Washington would be the safest place. But it’s zombie city out there. So I backtracked and eventually crossed paths with Russ and company. They took me in and the rest is history.”
. . .
            “Kristen,” Russ called from outside their tent. “We need to talk.” The tents were Zach’s idea, so everyone could have a little bit of privacy. They pitched them in the stockroom, and that’s where everyone went when they needed rest. Once they cleared the empty shelves out, there was more than enough room for five tents.
            Russ and his wife shared one. Dylan and Barbara shared another. Fisher, Hershey, and Katie Kordell had their own separate tents.
            There was no room for anymore, so Murphy had set his tent up on the saloon floor outside of the stock room. Levy had his own tent, but he preferred his sleeping bag when indoors.
            “No more talk,” Kristen sobbed. “I’ve heard your promises. So has Katie. We’re done listening to you.”
            “I’m sorry I lied,” Russ said, trying to sound sincere. “I wasn’t even lying. I really did think help was coming eventually. That the cavalry would arrive. But I was wrong. There, I said it. I was wrong, honey. And I’m sorry. No more lies, no more empty promises. The truth is, the army is gone. The military is history. There’s no more backup. No more help on the horizon. No miracle cure, either. Otherwise it would’ve been put to use by now. We’re on our own.”
            “Now you’re getting it,” Kristen said.
            “And all we have is each other. That’s why we can’t waste our time and energy fighting. We have to stick together. For Katie, for ourselves. We have to be strong and keep pressing on. There are other people out there. There’s food and water and supplies just waiting to be found. I know it.”
            “I don’t know, Russ,” she said. “My tank is running on fumes. I’m practically on empty. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”
            “Where’s Katie?”
            “Sleeping in her tent.”
            “Good,” Russ said. “Don’t ever let her hear you talk like that, you understand me? That girl needs us now more than ever. I said I was going to see us through this and I meant it. Have a little more faith in your husband.”
. . .
            Dylan and Barbara Banks had lost their son to the zombies. That was their story.
            His name was Dylan Junior. Eighteen years old, six feet tall, two hundred and twenty pounds, a full head of curly blond hair. Dylan Junior was always tall for his age and some of the kids teased him in elementary school.
            Dylan Junior just brushed it off. He found that girls actually dug his freakish size, and it also made him a worthy addition to the basketball team.
            The Banks family was en route to Florida when tragedy struck. They lost Dylan Junior. Lost the interstate. Lost their way. Ended up floating through the south. That’s when Russ stumbled across them and took this shattered couple in to grieve.
            And once they had grieved, Barbara and Dylan proved to be worthy allies, scouting for supplies and locations to camp for a night, and pitching in wherever they could.
            Barbara was terrified of guns and Dylan was no ace, but when their backs were up against the wall, they did what they had to do, just like anyone else with the desire to persevere.
            The alcohol did a good job of numbing the pain for Dylan, but his knee was still sore and throbbing to beat the band.
            “Everyone come here quickly,” Barbara called from the windows they had partially boarded up. They ran out of boards halfway through and some of the windows still left them slightly exposed. But it gave them the advantage of seeing who was coming.
            “I’m not moving an inch,” Murphy called back. He was six beers and six shots deep and was sprawled out on the floor behind the bar, staring up at the ceiling, counting the blurry tiles.
            Hershey had curled up on the floor to get some rest and was sleeping. Levy had crawled into his sleeping bag and clearly didn’t want to be bothered as he hadn’t moved an inch towards the window.

            Casey wandered over though and took a peek out the window. “What the hell?” he muttered.

            “What is it?” Dylan asked, hobbling over.
            “It’s a little boy,” Casey said. “He’s covered in dirt and God knows what else. Poor thing. You think he’s out here on her own?”
            “There’s no way he’d survive on his own,” Dylan said. “The kid must have people somewhere. Maybe they got separated and he’s just lost.”
            “Well, we can’t leave him out there for the zombies to find. They’ll rip that child to shreds.”
            “He’s not our responsibility,” Casey pointed out.
            “Is that what you’d say if it was your sister?” Barbara chided.
            “Wait,” Hershey said. “Listen…what’s that noise?”
            “I don’t hear anything,” Barbara said.
            “I hear it,” Dylan murmured. “It sounds like…gunshots.
. . .
            A little more than a year ago, Katie Kordell was attending high school. She would’ve given anything to see their friends again. To have an intellectual conversation about books with her reading teacher. To go on another date to the movies with Teddy Newmyer and make out in the back row.
            It dawned on her in those last few months there was so many things she might never do again. So many goals she’d never be capable of accomplishing.
            Katie would never attend college. She would never land a job or even have the experience of going on a job interview. She’d never get married. She might never even kiss a boy again.
            She’d never own a car or a house. In any other scenario, the idea of living on her own was viewed as an exciting adventure, a fresh start. Now, the idea of living on her own terrified her more than anything.
            A piano prodigy, Katie was practically guaranteed a scholarship to her choosing. Now, it had been more than a year that her fingers even grazed the keys of a piano.
            She had lost her friends. She had lost her future. But she was still alive. And so was her family. And that was worth surviving for.
. . .
“We’re under attack!” Dylan screamed. “Russ, where are you?”
As a barrage of bullets came flying through the boarded windows, a portion of glass that was not covered up by the boards shattered and a heavy round object came sailing through the window.
“Grenade!” Fisher screamed, an object he was familiar with only from games like Call of Duty.
            Fisher leapt across the floor and took covered behind the bar. Levy had woken up and was already cowering on his hands and knees when Fisher got there. Dylan Banks’ bum knee slowed him enough that he couldn’t escape the radius of the blast.
            Barbara, who was also huddled behind the bar, made a move to help him. But he raised his hand to stop her and advised her to stay where she was.
            The blast had blown the sealed door from its hinges and taken most of Dylan Banks with it. What remained on the floor were scraps of his upper body and remnants of his arms and legs.
            Hershey was flung against the wall, knocked unconscious. Murphy hadn’t even heard the explosion. All he heard was a ringing sound followed by a pop that was his eardrums.
            Barbara saw the remains of her husband and sunk down behind the bar again, her hearing so far gone she couldn’t even hear her own sobs.
            Fisher, his hearing badly impaired, was still keeping an eye out for their attackers. Another grenade came sailing through the exposed entrance, bounced off a wall and rolled back near the door.
            “Another one!” Fisher shouted, not even sure if anyone else could hear him. He ducked down behind the bar and tucked his fingers in his ears, waiting for the blast. But he never felt the ground quake, didn’t hear a peep.
            Russ was in the stockroom, clutching that hand cannon of his, just waiting for the enemy to expose themselves.
            The gunfire had ceased and the grenade had failed to detonate. When no else made a move, Fisher snuck around the counter to examine it.
            “It’s just a dud,” he sighed, picking the faux grenade up, squeezing it gently. “In fact, it looks like a toy to me. Feels like rubber or foam latex.”
            “Is the coast clear?” Levy shouted from behind the bar.
            “I think so,” Fisher said back. “I don’t see or hear anyone.”
            As Fisher turned his back, the enemy showed himself in the entrance. It was a man, mid-thirties, tattered rags that adorned his body. He raised his gun and fired.
            Fisher collapsed to the floor, coughing up blood, his spine riddled with bullets. Russ sprang from the stockroom, raising his Colt 45 long barrel. All it took was one shot.
            Another grenade came sailing through the exposed entrance. But this one was different. It wasn’t round. It was long and narrow. Russ seemed to recognize it almost instantly.
            “Cover your ears!” he shouted, but it was too late. The stun grenade went off, emitting a blinding flash of light and a piercing sound that was disorienting and further damaged their hearing.
            Once the group was rendered incapacitated, the rest of their attackers made their presence known. The leader, a tall, paper thin man with stringy, greasy hair stood over Russ with his flock in tow. He was visibly missing a chunk of his right ear.
            There were five of them with the exception of the child, all armed with guns or some other kind of weaponry.
            “Tsk, tsk,” the leader said. “You killed Lupus. You’ll pay for that. Neptune, Pinky, tie them up and load them into the back of the truck. These people will make worthy additions to our sport.”
            “What about their supplies?” the child asked.
            “Take them as well, my son,” the leader said.

            Russ Kordell peered through the metal bars of his cage. It looked like the kind of cage you’d use for shark diving. In the distance, he could hear the sobs of his wife, Kristen. But he couldn’t hear his daughter. Even when he cried out her name, Katie did not cry back.
            He’d been knocked out for the duration of the ride. But even in the darkness, he knew where they were. He could smell it in the air. He could feel it in that dry, arid climate. They were in the desert.
            Russ surmised they probably weren’t that far from the saloon. Russ was familiar with the territory and the closest desert was on the outskirts of Roswell.
            But he couldn’t see sand or cacti or dry vegetation. He couldn’t see anything beyond that damn cage.
            “Ah, you’re awake,” a familiar voice said, and out of the darkness, a tall, slender man with greasy long hair stepped forward.
            “Where the fuck are we?” Russ demanded to know. “What have you done with my wife and daughter?”
            “They’re safe for now,” the man assured him. “Allow to introduce myself. I’m Cutter. And earlier, you met the rest of my extended family. But rest assured, you’ll be seeing them again.”
            “I’ll look forward to it,” Russ said, observing Cutter’s right ear.
            “You’re probably wondering about that missing chunk,” Cutter said. “Well, there’s no mystery to it. I sliced it off to save my own ass. I had my back against the wall and those flesh eating freaks were gonna tear me a new one. I had to feed them something to get away.”
            Russ could assess the kind of man he was speaking to. There would be no reasoning with Cutter or his family. The only question was what did they have in store for Russ and the group?
            “Where are we?” Russ asked. “I know we’re in the desert somewhere.”
            “Correct,” Cutter said. “Right on the outskirts of Roswell. You’re at our compound. Our fortress. Our humble abode.”
            “What makes a vulture a vulture?”
            “I don’t know, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.”
            “A vulture preys on the weak. It’ll eat something that’s dead if it has to. Whatever it takes to survive. That’s that a vulture does. And that’s what we do. But even vultures need a form of entertainment.”
            “Is that what we are to you people? Entertainment?”
            “To an extent, yes. Have you ever seen wrestling on television?”
            “Who hasn’t seen it at least once or twice?”
            “Well, we got a little setup outside,” Cutter said. “It’s our version of the steel cage match. Except we do things with a twist.”
            “What’s the twist?”
            “Oh, you’ll see…Neptune, Pinky, Fuckface, gather our new friends and bring them to the cage.”
            “Fuckface?” Russ said. “Where’s Shithead?”
            “Very funny,” Cutter said. “Fuckface would laugh if he could. But he can’t. I cut out his tongue.”
. . .
            The cage was a crudely constructed mess of chain link fencing that formed an octagon. It looked more like UFC to Russ then professional wrestling, but he guessed you had to use your imagination.
            Elaine Hershey was the first to be thrown into the cage. Then Murphy. Levy was dragged in kicking and screaming. He even tried to barter with them, offering his watch, his broken cell phone, even his wedding ring.
            But Cutter and his band of misfits had no use for such trades. What they wanted was amusement.
            Russ was the last to be tossed in before the mesh door was slammed and padlocked shut.
            Kristen and Katie were nowhere in sight. Neither was Barbara Banks. On the other side of the cage, six zombies that were desperately trying to claw their way towards them. The collars around their neck and the chains fastened to the cage kept them at bay for the moment.
            In the center of this octagon, weapons. No guns. There was an axe, a baseball bat with rusty nails pounded through the wood, a sledgehammer, a shovel, a 2x4.
            “Here’s the game,” Cutter said. “It’s you versus the zombies. If you manage to reach those weapons before they reach you, you may have a fighting chance. Boys, unleash the zombies!”
            Fuckface and Pinky unlocked the chains and set the shambling zombies free.
            Cutter had given his “family” all nicknames. Pinky was just about as skinny as somebody’s pinky. He was even skinnier when Cutter first found him and showed him the way.
            Neptune was called that because Cutter was under the impression that the weirdo was from outer space. Roadblock’s nickname was adopted because of his girth. And Fuckface, well, he was Cutter’s pet.
            Ever since he had snipped out his tongue, Fuckface had fallen in line. He knew his place now. And he could never talk back again. Cutter saw to that.
            The others knew what he was capable of now. They knew not to cross him. But Russ Kordell didn’t give a damn what this man was capable of. Because he didn’t have the first clue what Russ was capable of either.
            They made a dash for the weapons. Russ lifted the bat and started swinging like a madman. Murphy was the second one to step in with the sledgehammer.
            Levy grabbed the shovel, but it was more to protect himself than to participate.
            Elaine froze for a second, but when she saw those things–their eyes glazed over, their skin flayed, flesh rotting down to the blackened bones–ambling towards her, she knew something had to be done. So she grabbed the axe.
            The head of the axe soared through the air and decapitated one of the drooling maniacs that used to be human. But Elaine couldn’t think about that, couldn’t speculate about this person’s past life. They weren’t a person anymore. They were a threat that had to be eliminated.
            Murphy swung the hammer and heard the zombies ribcage crush as soon as it made impact. But he wasn’t done there. He didn’t stop swinging until he turned its skull into splinters.
            Russ was one and zero against this battalion of the undead. But when he swung the bat and caught another one in the head, it didn’t go through all the way. Not enough to kill it.
            The bat remained embedded in its skull as Russ struggled to tug it free. Murphy took down another one with the hammer and saw Russ was in trouble.
            But Hershey stepped in before he even had a chance. Severing its head from the neck with her axe.
            “Thanks,” Russ told her, yanking the bat free from its decapitated head. “Is that all of them?”
            They heard the shrieks and turned to see Levy on his back, legs twitching, hand clutched at his throat to try and slow the bleeding. The final zombie was clawing at his torso, ripping at the flesh of his belly. Its teeth were trying to find its way around the gaping hole they’d torn in Levy’s neck.
            Murphy used the sledgehammer to put it down, but the damage had already been done.
            Cutter had retreated to their fortress, and Fuckface had followed. Pinky had unlocked the cage, but Russ cut him off at the door, snapping his neck like a twig. They backed away when the others turned their guns on them.
            Neptune was clutching Russ’s Colt 45 long barrel, his finger taut around the trigger and ready to fire. Roadblock was standing at his side, towering over him. He had his own weapon–the machine gun they used to attack the saloon.
            “You killed our brother,” Neptune wailed. “You’ll pay for that.”
            Russ and his gang inched back a few steps, but otherwise they didn’t move. They just set back and waited for it to happen.
            Behind Neptune and Roadblock, Kirk Levy had sat up. He had that same crazed, glazed over look in his eyes that the others possessed.
            He got up and staggered forward, fingers digging into Neptune’s shoulder, teeth chomping at the nape of his neck. The blood jetted across the desert sand and Neptune sank to his knees.
            That’s when they made their move. Russ charged, swinging and burying that nail-studded bat deep in Roadblock’s skull.
“Say hello to the Irish Stallion, motherfucker,” Murphy screamed. He raised the hammer and brought it down over Neptune, finishing the job.
None of them particularly liked or favored Kirk Levy. He was a judgmental prick who held his head up over the rest. But he was still human at one point. He still stood beside them. And they couldn’t leave him like this.
Russ let Elaine and Zach go ahead to find the others. He stayed behind to put Levy out of his misery.
. . .
            Deep inside this makeshift fortress of steel and chain link fencing with scaffolding that acted as roofing, they found the others, locked inside separate cages. Cages that could not be opened without the keys.
            “Sit tight,” Russ told his wife and daughter, relieved to see them in one piece. “I’ll find the keys.”
            But he didn’t have to look far. From the darkness, Fuckface emerged, keys jingling in his hand. He was covered in blood that was not his own. Beside, him the child. Cutter’s alleged son. But it was Brendan Fowler AKA Fuckface that truly had claim to the boy.
            With Kristen and Katie and Barbara Banks free, Russ urged Brendan and the child to come along with them. He insisted there was nothing there for them. But Brendan took the child by the hand, wandering off into the darkness of that labyrinth, never to be seen again.
            They found Cutter. What was left of him. Russ took pleasure in finishing the job that Brendan had started. Everywhere Kristen and Katie Kordell looked, there were signs of madness and violence. Russ Kordell’s viciousness.
            His wife and daughter had seen now what he was capable of. And they weren’t apprehensive or terrified. They were grateful to have someone who was willing to do anything necessary to keep them alive. 


Dear Journal,
            The nightmare is over…for now.
            We have conquered our enemies. But our triumph did not come without great loss.
            Dylan Banks, Kirk Levy, Casey Fisher…they will be greatly missed.
            As for the others, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing. Survive.
            We’ve returned to the saloon with supplies. We’re going to reinforce it. Make it as secure as possible. This place will be our home for the next few months.
            And there’s plenty of food and water out there to be found. You just have to look for it.
            If for some reason I don’t make it, if anyone out there is reading this right now, if you’re still alive, I have some advice for you. Watch your back.
            The world we knew was a dangerous place. And the world we don’t know hides even more danger. Trust only those that can be trusted. Never let your guard down. And always expect the unexpected.

To Be Continued?

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